Ex-Aide Accuses Gonzales Of Wrongdoing

Former Justice Department White House liaison Monica Goodling testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, May 23, 2007, before the House Judiciary Committee. (AP Photo/Lawrence Jackson) AP Photo/Lawrence Jackson

A former Justice Department official at the center of the uproar over prosecutor firings told House investigators Wednesday that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales tried to review his story of the dismissals with her at a time when lawmakers were homing in on conflicting accounts.

"It made me a little uncomfortable," Monica Goodling, Gonzales' former White House liaison, said of her conversation with the attorney general just before she took a leave of absence in March. "I just did not know if it was appropriate for us to both be discussing our recollections of what had happened."

In a daylong appearance before the Democratic-led House Judiciary Committee, Goodling, 33, also acknowledged crossing a legal line herself by considering the party affiliations of candidates for career prosecutor jobs — a violation of law.

She also said that Gonzales' No. 2, Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, knew more than he let on when he did not disclose to Congress the extent of White House involvement in deciding which prosecutors to fire. McNulty strongly denied that he withheld information, saying Goodling did not fully brief him about the White House's involvement.

Goodling's dramatic story about her final conversation with Gonzales brought questions from panel members about whether he had tried to align her story with his and whether he was truthful in his own congressional testimony.

Gonzales told the Senate Judiciary Committee last month that he didn't know the answers to some questions about the firings because he was steering clear of aides — such as Goodling — who were likely to be questioned.

"I haven't talked to witnesses because of the fact that I haven't wanted to interfere with this investigation and department investigations," Gonzales told the panel.

Goodling said for the first time Wednesday that Gonzales did review the story of the firings with her at an impromptu meeting she requested in his office a few days before she took a leave of absence.

"I was somewhat paralyzed. I was distraught, and I felt like I wanted to make a transfer," Goodling recalled during a packed hearing of the House Judiciary Committee.

Gonzales, she said, indicated he would think about Goodling's request.

"He then proceeded to say, 'Let me tell you what I can remember,' and he laid out for me his general recollection ... of some of the process" of the firings, Goodling added. When Gonzales finished, she said, "he asked me if I had any reaction to his iteration."

Goodling said the conversation made her uncomfortable because she was aware that she, Gonzales and others would be called by Congress to testify.

"Was the attorney general trying to shake your recollection?" asked Rep. Artur Davis, D-Ala.

Goodling paused.

"I just did not know if it was a conversation we should be having and so I just didn't say anything," she replied.

Democrats pounced.

"It certainly has the flavor of trying to get their stories straight," said Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., a member of the committee.

When asked by Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., who was paying her lawyers, Goodling answered that she was paying for them but that she intends to set up a "legal defense fund," though she has not yet done so, CBS News reported.
  • Sean Alfano

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